This Procedure You Think Is Safe Could Actually Give You Chemical Burns

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but right now, henna–the dye that can be used for long-lasting temporary tattoos and hair color–is kind of having a moment. Well, technically, this “moment” has been more like a thousand year-plus tradition, given that it’s been around since about 1574 BCE, but you get the idea–lately, henna tattoos have been particularly present on Instagram, which means that they’re having some sort of moment in the Western world.

But enough dithering! Today, I am here to talk to you about chemical burns. Or, to be more specific, how the henna-as-an-Instagram trend can give you them, because it has in at one case–according to Refinery29, a 13-year-old girl has some pretty intense chemical burns as a result of a black henna tattoo.

This girl, Teigan Koorts, went on vacation in Greece with her family last month. While there, she and her mom visited a henna artist and got black henna tattoo on her arm in its “weakest” form, which was supposed to last for four weeks. It did, but it also burned her arm for the entire four weeks, leaving her with scars in the shape of the original tattoo that her mom fears are permanent. This is because the tattoo was done with black henna, which isn’t actually real henna (naturally derived henna will pretty much always be a dark red-brown). Black henna is banned in both the U.S. and U.K because it contains a chemical that’s typically only used in hair dye, called PPD.

If you were wondering, this isn’t an isolated case. Black henna has caused health issues with other people, too–pretty much every year, new cases of people getting painful, sometimes permanent, physical reactions due to the “henna” tattoos they get on vacation make headlines. Fortunately, this problem is fairly easy to avoid if you know what to look out for. Basically, if a henna artist tells you that they use “black henna” for their work, run. If you don’t want chemical burns where your temporary tattoo should have been, just make sure you go to a place that uses natural henna dye. Once you do that, you’ll have something that might last forever on Instagram, but not, you know, on your skin.


Have you ever gotten a henna tattoo? Would you ever get one again? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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